It dawned on me the other day that everything typically graded in school comes down to behavior, effort, and/or participation. It doesn’t matter what your grading categories are, what you’ve renamed them to be, or what policy supposedly is in place. This is inescapable…
I’ve been experimenting with more structure to storyasking. No doubt, I’m a bit rusty after a year teaching classes just 1x/wk, and for which I asked the first and only story on the final day of classes! Prior to that, it had been over a year and a half since I regularly asked stories, which itself wasn’t frequent given the oppressive teaching environment—ēheu! Here are supports that have proved quite useful in helping me get back into the swing of things. But first, what makes good storyasking?
Choice, not Chaos!
A lot of teachers try asking too many open-ended questions that leave students at a loss. The easiest stories to ask include some choice, but not so much that everything feels off the rails. Teachers who attempt the latter, bail quickly. The key is finding the right balance between personalization and control. Experienced storyaskers can release a lot of control over to students, mostly because they have a higher chance of being comprehensible, and the students are more mature, knowing what to expect. Less-experienced storyaskers, or those in particular creativity-resistant contexts, like mine, would benefit from having more structure. The following supports have been helpful in reawakening imagination, something all great stories benefit from, and which most grade students have forgotten about/lost by the time they get to high school, sadly. Give them a try…
On Saturday at RIFLA, I presented some updates to two NTPRS 2018 presentations. After the conference, I made even more updates based on what we discussed, including MGMT issues each setup decision addresses. I also had the chance to see two presenters.
- Signals Watching Matthew got me thinking: Have I been using signals?! In the past, we’ve had something for stop, and slow down. Matthew showed us one for faster, but I’ve never had the problem of speaking too slowly! Right now students just raise their hand. I might want to encourage the use of signals more.
- Story Cubes I’ve used these, and written about using them as more of a whole-class brainstorm and input activity. Still, I can now see an additional use for them with “unlocking creativity.” For example, I could roll two cubes under a document camera, and ask if any word comes to mind that could fill in the next story detail I’m asking for. This could be real good. I’ve been noticing how much better an either/or question is (e.g. students choose, or are inspired a third possibility they otherwise wouldn’t have come up with on their own). Matthew’s version was to provide a paper with 9 prompts (e.g. where, when, how many, problem, etc.), distribute the Story Cubes, then ask students about the image they rolled on the cube as well as what story detail they wanted it to fulfill. In his experience, this little bit of structure has helped quite a lot. Matthew also gathered the cubes as rolled, and snapped a pic of all 9. Essentially, this is the class story depicted, which could then be used as a Picture Talk, or some kind of story retell activity.
- “Oooooooooh” Matthew shared the 2016 video of Blaine Ray teaching English in Brazil, and the first thing I noticed was how every time Blaine made a story statement, he cued the “oooohs” from the class. If I had been trained to do this, I’ve certainly forgotten. I like how it kept students engaged on even the most basic of sentences! I think I’ll give this a try.
- The sēx game! Viviana captured our attention with a MovieTalk in Portugues. Afterwards, she shared a host of input-based followup activities. I had forgotten about the game Keith Toda shared. In groups of 3-4, students get a text, as well as a 6-sided die and 1 pencil. They take turns rolling until someone gets a 6, yells out that number in the target language (TL), and begins translating sentences from the text. They continue to do so while other team members keep rolling. Once someone else gets a 6, they grab the pencil from who was writing, and play continues. First to finish wins, or give points for understood sentences and highest points wins.
- Do something to get you drawings from each student (e.g. Listen & Draw, or Silent T/F Reading).
- Project & describe as two students compete to indicate the correct drawing
It’s taken years to develop my practices, so there’s no reason students should understand them all after 7 weeks. I’m using these comics to reinforce rules & routines, and to help students understand why their language class looks so different from other classes in school.
1) Tests, Quizzes, “Assessments”
When students respond—even non-verbally—it’s like they’ve selected a multiple choice, or completed a fill-in-the-blank test item. Rather than score/”correct” each individual student’s test, the real time interaction provides immediate feedback to everyone in the room. This saves a massive amount of teacher time, typically redundant in nature (e.g. giving the same feedback over and over, possibly resorting to using comment codes, etc.). It’s actually the most natural form of a batch assessment, and it takes place all class long!
There’s no need to give tests when every utterance provides a) me with comprehension data, and b) students with immediate feedback. I do, however, need to train students to listen as if they were taking a test. That’s easier said than done, but not impossible. Aside from maintaining consistent classroom rules & routines that support language acquisition, statements like the ones in the comics help to explicitly connect SLA principles with school expectations in a student-friendly way.
2) Reading Expectations
I don’t give homework, but reading at home is a daily expectation, period. Without a product attached to reading, though, the concept of “we have Latin reading every night” is tough for 9th graders. Surely, I don’t want to contribute to readicide, but students do need it spelled out for them. The math on input is clear. If we spend 10min. reading in class each day, reading at home for another 10min. doubles the input for the whole year.
The power of reading at home cannot be emphasized enough, and reading what is understood is paramount. This means providing students with level-appropriate, or even below-level reading since doing so independently at home lacks any possibility for negotiating and clarifying meaning. Like novellas used for Free Voluntary Reading (FVR), students are able to read far less on their own vs. the support available during whole-class, or partner-reading activities.
Quīntus et nox horrifica—a scary story even Latin 1 students can understand with ease!
It’s one of my favorites, and is here just in time for Halloween. This latest Pisoverse novella clocks in at 52 unique words (excluding names, different forms, and meaning established in the text), but uses 26 super clear cognates. In fact, this will be the very first novella we read in my classes in about a month, with Rūfus lutulentus (20 words), and the others to follow. Quīntus et nox horrifica is available…
Last Friday, I suddenly found myself without a document camera after a Listen & Draw with our first One Word Image (OWI). Realizing my error, I scrambled to snap a pic of just one student drawing, send it to my email, sign in, download and orient, turn on the projector, etc. all just to discuss student artwork. No bueno. Not only did I lose a few kids during the shuffle, but I avoided repeating the process, meaning we looked at just one student’s work. No bueno mas. With a document camera, we used to look at several different drawings easily, keeping interest high throughout class. That absence was obvious, and I was unhappy with how things went. Still, I was determined to use the stack of hilarious drawings somehow…